Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Northern Landscapes for a change

I spend most of my time here in southwestern Ontario, naturally, so it is a very pleasant change to see what other parts of the province look like. Our daughter and her husband live in North Bay. The 600+ kilometre trip from our house to theirs, takes us through vastly different landscapes. Recently we timed a visit to (hopefully) coincide with some impressive autumn colours.

The first leg of the trip is pretty boring.....from Chatham, through Toronto and then heading straight north. Once we get into the Barrie/Orillia area, we really start to feel we are getting there and by the time we get north of Huntsville it is the land dominated by rocks, hills, lakes and trees. This first image is just a short distance north of Huntsville, right along Hwy 11. The lake probably has a name, but I haven't investigated to find out what it is. Regardless of its name, or lack of one, it is a place I stop at briefly, sometimes venturing across 4 lanes of traffic, just to enjoy the view while numerous vehicles are impatiently heading to their respective destinations.

We like fresh spring water---a welcome treat from the municipal water---and there is an accessible spring a short distance off the highway at Novar where we stop and fill up several water jugs. However as soon as one gets off the highway and prepares to travel down this paved side road towards the spring, one sees this next scene.
This image was actually taken a couple of years ago. I was particularly pleased on that occasion to see a bright red kayak with two paddlers approaching, so I waited and got a few shots of them in action. The scene this year was similar, but without the kayak.

A little farther north again is a place that I discovered several years ago, and is one of my favourite places to take a break. It is Brooks Falls, and I have stopped numerous times over the years, in all seasons. The Magnetawan River flows here, and depending on the water flow, can look impressively powerful at least close-up. The access is via a municipal park by the name of the falls, and one can park just a few metres from the trail that takes you to several vantage points.

The day we visited this year was bright and sunny, not conducive for the best photography here. These first two images are a couple of my favourites from a previous time, one in mid-September and the other two weeks later.

Owing to the bright, contrasty conditions, I focussed on areas that were in shadow where I could capture more intimate scenes.
We made it to North Bay. In reality it isn't all that far north, being at a latitude well south of the 49th parallel, the typical southern boundary of Canada across much of this vast country. But relative to where we live in the extreme southwest, which is more or less at the same latitude of the northern California boundary, it is north! (Aside: I remember many years ago travelling through the USA, and explaining to an American traveller where we were from. His comment was quite revealing: "Oh, that is the part we didn't get from the British!")

One of my favourite places to explore while at North Bay is Laurier Woods Conservation Area. It is almost 100 hectares of natural area within the city limits of North Bay....what a concept, and what a treat! There are several kilometres of trails.

 Somewhat surprisingly, the colours this year were not as vibrant as a year ago, even though this year was a few days later. There was generally more green than I expected.

Without being all that familiar with birding hotspots of the area, I contacted a birder friend who spent several years living just south of North Bay. He recommended several spots, and so on this visit I checked out places like Sunset Point, an area protruding well out into Lake Nipissing, giving a 270 degree view of the lake.
Sunset Point Park

Sunset Point
 This next photo is also of Sunset Point, but looking northward towards the city centre. The shallow water and extensive sandy shoreline looks great for a few shorebirds and of course gulls. But it also lends itself to numerous people out walking their dogs, so maybe such birds give it a wide berth.

I also checked out the Callander Sewage Lagoon for birds, and of course Laurier Woods. Another spot at the south end of North Bay was Champlain Park, right along the lake and with a small river passing through it.

Given the time of year (second week of October) and limited time spent birding (it was primarily a family-oriented trip), I didn't see any really unexpected birds, but had a good array. Most were waterbirds, and included Common Loon, White-winged Scoter, Horned Grebe and various duck species. I think my total was about 30 species, and I dutifully entered my observations on ebird. At least now I have a better idea of where to spend birding time in the future, and have some other ideas of places to visit such as the Cranberry Trail, which goes about 2.5 km through the forest and includes marsh and lake viewing. It is nice having such extensive natural habitat within minutes of where we were staying.

While in North Bay, a visit to Duchesnay Falls is always a treat. It is located right along the highway leading out of the northwest side of the city.

Duchesnay Falls, the overview look

Duchesnay Falls, the close-up view
And just to wind things up, here is High Falls, just north of Bracebridge, located between a small roadside picnic park and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources office on the west side of Hwy 11. It is an impressive sight, but one has to pick the vantage point carefully to eliminate the bright red signs warning of danger, and the metal walkway going across the falls on the upstream side.
For many of my waterfall photos, I like slow shutter speeds (typically 0.5-6 seconds or more) to highlight the silky smooth look. However for High Falls, I chose a faster shutter speed to try to stop the action and capture the feeling of raw power of the water. It is even more effective when there is more water flowing over, as I have sometimes seen here. In this case, the shutter speed was about 1/1000 sec.


  1. That spring at Novar, if there is a tiny bridge over the creek there, I surveyed the site a couple of years ago! I presume they are going to replace the bridge.

    1. There is a very low bridge over the small river beside where the spring is, but it looks like it is in quite good shape. But of course I am not a structural engineer, and I haven't examined it very closely. We've been stopping there for about 5 years now. There is almost always someone else coming or going during the short time we are there getting water. The spring is about two km or more north of Novar, on the eastern side of hwy 11.